“I bless the rains down in Africa” – Toto.
I toured the vivacious capital of Togo with my Polish friend Malina. It was my first time in Togo, my 7th time in Africa and it was a whirlwind trip where we also toured Lake Togo, Coco Beach and Togoville. On the same trip, we border crossed into Benin to visit Ouidah, Abomey, Porto Novo and Cotonou. Plus, as a bonus we were there at the time of the Togo v. The Gambia African Nations Cup qualifying group match (which ended 1-1). Both countries are narrow strips on the west African coast, possessing gorgeous coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean, shyly bereft of or unbegging for tourism.
“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time, the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life” – Paul Hewson.
When touring the capital city Lomé, you will get used to bargaining down the Zemi-John (shared motorbike) drivers to get the cheapest fare – be careful as they try to rip you off, as do the taxi drivers! Thanks to our local guide, Jeremies (and his secretary Malgoire), we were able to tour a lot of these sights together and get detailed explanations about them. We recommend using Jeremies and Fly for Life (full contact details below). Lomé does not incite too much love or peace for the intrepid backpacker amongst us, but it still has these 6 sights worth checking out, away from our glorious beach life at the Coco Beach Hotel.
1.National Football Stadium (Stade Omnisport)
Our trip marvellously coincided with an African Nations Cup qualifier! We attended the Togo v. The Gambia match at the national stadium. Thanks to Jeremies and Malgoire for sorting out the tickets and how to get there (in the end it was a 10 minute walk from Independence Square so easily sorted).
We got inside the ground an hour before kick-off and had seats in the home section right next to the away section of The Gambia supporters. I recalled my time in The Gambia when I had visited their national stadium back in 2016 on my tour of Bakua, Brufut, Kachikally and Banjul. Malina and I went with Malgoire, our guide and new friend (who also played a huge part in helping us find our hotel in Lome – a story for the future – we got totally lost in the capital!!).
This match was a very unusual one to attend for a few reasons:
1.It was being played on a plastic pitch (I thought back to the 500+ matches I have been to and could NOT recall watching an international match on an artificial pitch before).
2.Togo superstar Emmanuel Adebayor was NOT playing.
3.The Gambia went 1-0 up and almost 2-0 up at various points (they were huge underdogs).
4.At half time the pitch was completely waterlogged and play was stopped for almost an hour!
Very close to the national stadium sits Togo’s Independence Square. We visited this on the second day in the country and walked around its perimeter. Togo’s independence was granted from the French in April 1960, however the country was also victim of a German invasion in its torn history. The square itself is actually closed to the public so you can only look in from the gates.
Near the square is a posh hotel (Hôtel 2 Février Lomé), the national stadium and the Togolese parliament. We also bought some snacks and drinks from food vendors who work here. To use their Wi-Fi towards the end of the trip we also popped into the posh hotel and I even bought a coffee in there!
Also in Independence square is the building of the Togolese parliament. I always like to check out at least one government building in a country, and in Togo, this was the only one I remember seeing.
4.Grande Marche (Big Market)
It’s nothing to write home about, Lome’s Grand Marches, and not as cool as the markets from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast but still worth a trip. Malina picked up a few souvenirs.
In a country of three main religions – Catholicism, Islam and Voodooism, we were able to see the influence of all three of them. This wasn’t the only church we entered in Togo – we also toured the famous church in Togoville where Pope John Paul II once famously gave a speech.
The main cathedral in Lome is a striking red and white building. Another curiosity for was that it also bears the name of Sacre Coeur (same as its Parisien counterpart). This was a coincidence for Malina and I as we had stopped off in Paris for a day onroute and visited both the Sacre Coeur and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Later the irony was magnified when we backpacked in Cotonou in Benin, only to find a Notre Dame Cathedral there too, which made my top sights in Cotonou.
6.Fetish Market (Voodoo Market)
I have written in a separate article about how we toured the Fetish market or Voodoo market in Lomé so of course it has to make the top 6.
We also visited the beach in Lome and at Coco Beach (further down the coast where we slept in the Coco Beach Resort). In Lome, we stayed in the Diana Hotel in the Akodésséwa district.
Here are the details for organising a Lomé city tour with Jeremies from Fly for Life:
Thanks to Malina for accompanying me on this trip, the photos on this article are copyright of both Jonny Blair and Fifi Rushfield.
Here are some videos from our time backpacking in Lomé, the Togolese capital: